Don’t panic over stock market volatility

But watch your emotions. Despite our best intentions to act rationally, basic impulses and emotional responses can influence our decisions, often against our better judgment.

There is an old saying on Wall Street that the market is driven by just two emotions: fear and greed. Succumbing to these emotions can have a profound and detrimental effect on your portfolio. “It’s tempting to sell stocks when things look shaky and buy again when the outlook is bright. Such market timing almost never pays off because no one really knows what will happen next,” advises Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planning Supervisor at Member Benefits. “Just as greed dominated the market back during the dotcom boom, the same can be said of the prevalence of fear following its bust. In a bid to stem their losses, many investors dumped their stocks, but in doing so they lost any opportunity to recover their losses when the stock market rebounded.”

The best thing you can do right now? Don’t panic. We’ve had market corrections before. History clearly illustrates that the market will drop some days sometimes for weeks or months, and the market will go up some days sometimes for weeks or months.

Accept the predictable unpredictableness of the market. If you’re thinking “easier said than done,” remember:

If you are experiencing more volatility than you’re comfortable with, it might be wise to take a look at your portfolio. Take advantage of Member Benefits’ expertise. Log in to your account at yourMONEY, or contact us at 1-800-279-4030 if you need help or have questions.

Don’t let your ne$t egg get poached

If you’re in or near retirement, guess what—you’re a real catch. Assuming you’ve been saving over a number of years in your 403(b), IRA, and/or spouse’s 401(k), your retirement account balance is probably becoming pretty significant, which is of great interest to investment brokers, financial planners, and insurance agents.

According to a June 2018 report by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Americans over the age of 50 currently account for 77% of financial assets in the United States. And as of the end of 2017, retirement assets for those 65 and older reached $28.2 trillion dollars! Just five years ago, that number was $16 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money—and puts your assets on the radar.

Perhaps at this point in your career you’re wondering if you need to do something differently with your retirement savings. Or maybe you’ve been contacted by an investment broker and have heard something like this:

While these statements may not be untrue, they may omit some of the facts. Whether this is by choice or through carelessness on their part, it’s critical to know if you’re missing some very important information needed to make the best decision for your circumstances.

If you’re considering making a move with your retirement account, we have some guidance for you to follow so you can be aware of some potential consequences of your choices as you navigate this important financial consideration.

Keep your emotions in check

It’s a fact—the decisions we make about money are often fraught with emotion. And the thought of making money last through a potentially long retirement can feel daunting. But first and foremost, do your best not to let your emotions overly influence your financial decisions.

One of the most common emotions driving our money decisions is fear. According to Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planning Supervisor at Member Benefits, “People are afraid they won’t have enough money, worry whether their asset allocations are appropriate, or hear about what others are doing and wonder if they should be doing it too. Emotions can be useful in driving people to take action, but they can also lead to disastrous results if they drive the decision.”

Educators in particular are natural helpers. It’s common to feel obligated to use the services of someone they know. “I often hear from people who know someone, like a friend or a neighbor, and feel like they need to go with them for financial help, products, or services,” adds Brenda. “They don’t want to hurt their feelings or risk hurting the relationship. But I tell them to keep in mind that this is a business transaction. They are not doing you a favor, they are making a living. And you have the right to make your own decisions on who you want to do business with.

“Money is personal. While you will certainly have feelings surrounding it, don’t let them take over your decision-making process and potentially jeopardize your financial security.”

Don’t believe everything you hear

Since older folks are a growing segment of investors, financial services firms are increasingly focusing their marketing and sales of investment products to investors in or nearing retirement. One common marketing approach is to invite seniors to an investment seminar and offer them a free meal. But as we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The seduction of high returns or quick profits are often touted at these events, but there’s usually a catch. And it can be difficult and costly to undo certain moves.

As a general rule, the more guarantees or promises you are getting with a product, the more restrictive the withdrawal options. Many insurance company annuities have surrender periods of five to seven years. This means that you are locked into the contract for that period of time and can’t withdraw your money without paying surrender fees. “It’s not uncommon for people to fall into that trap, hoping to get big rewards quickly,” Brenda says. “Unfortunately, they don’t realize until it’s too late that if they need to take their money out, they can’t do it readily.”

Annuities are complicated and can be very difficult to understand. “Wisconsin public school employees already have two forms of annuities in retirement: WRS and Social Security. There may not be a reason for another annuity in their financial plan,” Brenda adds. She encourages caution when being presented with annuity options.

“Our participants will say, ‘the broker I talked to said I have to move my money out of my 403(b) now that I’m retired or changed careers.’ This is not true of their Member Benefits account, and it could result in a poor financial decision for the participant.“

Secondly, our members frequently report getting misinformation from various brokers looking for their business. One common line is being told they have to move their retirement account because they can’t stay in the current plan or they can’t roll over into a new employer’s plan, even though that may not be true.

Brenda explains, “Our participants will say, ‘the broker I talked to said I have to move my money out of my 403(b) now that I’m retired or changed careers.’ This is not true of their Member Benefits account, and could result in a poor financial decision for the participant.”

Participants in our IRA and 403(b) programs can keep their accounts with us for as long as they want regardless of their employment status and continue to take advantage of our low fees. Your Member Benefits’ 403(b) and IRA accounts can remain with us whether you retire, change districts, move out of state, or change professions. Additionally, both can be “stretched” over your lifetime if you choose.

However, when you retire, you are no longer eligible to open a 403(b) account because you are not working. So once that account is closed, there’s no coming back. “I can’t tell you how many retired people I have talked to who want to come back after they moved their money and were unhappy to learn they no longer can,” Brenda explains. “Unfortunately, we have to disappoint them. It’s hard.”

Likewise, with the IRA, you can stay as long as you like, but if, for example, you close the account and move out of state, you may not be eligible to reopen an account.

Always validate the details given by your provider before you take any action in moving your account. When discussing investments, a broker or advisor should discuss all of the risks, restrictions, and costs with you and provide complete and accurate information.

Decide what is fair and reasonable

So how do you know what is a fair and reasonable price to pay? Before making a money move, you need to understand—really understand—the implications of your decision.

The bottom line is this: Do the benefits justify the cost? Know what you’re buying, exactly how much it will cost, and what you stand to gain (and/or lose) from the move. Dedicate some time to gather the necessary information, and do your due diligence. “It will be time well spent,” Brenda assures, “because this is your hard earned money and future income we’re talking about.”

Uncover the total cost

When you’re talking fees with the agent/broker, ask for a list of all of the costs and identify which are one-time fees and which are ongoing. Fees may include investment fees, advisory fees, and more. (Note: Brokers may use the terms “costs” or “expenses” instead of “fees” when referring to their products.)

For example, you may be charged fees associated with the product that the agent doesn’t receive, like mortality and expense (M&E) fees that go to the company. And, if you are adding premium services, such as ongoing investment advice, you’ll typically pay a percentage of your assets on top of fund fees.

Is it worth it? Maybe, but adding layers of fees can cut the chances that your money will last. Every dollar you pay in fees is not earning interest in your account. So consider the potential earnings you may be losing out on.

It may help you get a more accurate perspective by converting any percentages to actual dollars. “I often hear, ‘it’s just 1%,’ but when I convert that into dollars, it’s a real eye-opener for people,” says Brenda. “And these dollars are typically an annual, recurring expense.”

Our fees are in plain sight

Participants in Member Benefits’ 403(b) and IRA programs enjoy low fees (0.35% for our 403(b) and 0.45% for our IRA) that are capped annually. “Typically, the larger your balance, the more fees you pay in terms of dollars—but that’s not true here,” Brenda says. “Mutual funds do have their own fees. But the administrative fees for participants in our 403(b) are capped at $500 annually, and for the IRA, fees are capped at $600 for WEAC members and $750 for nonmembers. Our fee cap means more of your money stays in your account and continues to work for you.”

Here are the main fees you need to watch for and quantify (Member Benefits does NOT charge any of these fees):

Remember, the general public does not have access to a program like ours—a very low-cost investment platform with licensed, non-commissioned staff.

Take action

Consider these tips when making decisions about your retirement savings.

Participating in a financial planning service from Member Benefits can help you get a more accurate picture of your financial situation. You might want to discuss your future goals and get our help to create a plan to reach them. If you are closer to retirement, we can help you look at important factors you may not have considered, such as:

Contact us at 1-800-279-4030 or for more information.

Be a savvy investor—get the facts first and refuse to be rushed into any decisions. Rarely (if ever) do you have to invest your money on the spot. A good investment will be available tomorrow or next week or next month, when you are ready and understand where your money is going.

Do your homework before you make a move

Investment salespeople (who offer securities) must be licensed. The firm must be registered with FINRA, the SEC, or a state securities regulator—depending on the type of business the firm conducts. An insurance agent must be licensed by the state insurance commissioner where he or she does business.

Check them out

Ask questions

Ask questions until you are satisfied that you know what you are buying and understand the risks and costs. You should know the answers to questions like:

If you have been defrauded

If you believe you or someone you know have been defrauded or treated unfairly by a securities professional or firm, you can send a written complaint to:

FINRA Investor Complaint Center
9509 Key West Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850-3329
Phone: 240-386-HELP (4357)
Fax: 866-397-3290
Complaints can also be filed online at

SECURE Act 2020 FAQs

Significant changes made by this new legislation may impact you and your financial plans, especially for those in their 50s and 60s who are nearing retirement. The new law includes changes to required minimum distributions (RMDs) for both you and your beneficiaries.

Here are a few questions and answers regarding changes in the SECURE Act that may most affect you.

I turned 70 ½ in 2019 and am scheduled to take my first RMD by April 1, 2020. Can I take advantage of the law’s increase in the age for starting RMDs at age 72?

No, only account owners who turn 70 ½ after December 31, 2019 can start taking their RMDs at age 72.

The SECURE Act eliminates the “Stretch IRA.” What are the new rules for people who inherit retirement accounts?

Those who inherit from people who die after December 31, 2019 must take the money out and pay any taxes due within 10 years. Many beneficiaries will now see higher taxes and a shorter distribution period for inherited retirement accounts under this change. The bill generally exempts surviving spouses, children under the age of majority (age 18 in Wisconsin), and some others. These individuals will follow current rules.

This provision is not retroactive, so it will not affect those who inherited an IRA in 2019 or prior years.

Does the SECURE Act eliminate stretch for all beneficiaries? 

No. The law carves out exemptions for certain beneficiaries, which are now called eligible designated beneficiaries (EDBs). They include surviving spouses and minor children up to majority – but not grandchildren. Also included are disabled and chronically ill individuals (as defined by the IRS) and individuals not more than 10 years younger than the IRA owner (generally, siblings around the same age).

For example, an IRA owner dies in 2020 and leaves her IRA to her minor child. The minor child can still stretch the same as before, but only until that child reaches the age of majority (which is age 18 for Wisconsin). Once the child reaches majority, he or she is no longer an EDB, so the 10-year rule will apply and the plan assets will have to be paid out by year 10, or age 28.

In another example, an IRA owner dies in 2020 and leaves her IRA to her minor grandchild. The grandchild is not considered a EDB, so the entire balance must be emptied by the end of 10 years.

Once an account owner turns 72, will they also need to fully distribute their account within 10 years?

The 10-year rule only affects beneficiary accounts of those not considered an EDB. Account owners can still stretch their accounts according to their life expectancy.

How do RMDs work under the 10-year rule? Are RMDs required during the 10 years?

No. Under the 10-year rule, there are no RMDs during the 10 years. According to the new law, the entire IRA balance must be emptied by the end of the 10 years. Failing to withdraw funds within the 10-year period would result in a 50% tax penalty on assets remaining in the account.

Beneficiaries can withdraw any amounts they wish over the 10 years, giving them some planning flexibility during that time to withdraw funds when it best fits their tax situation.

I’m 70 ½. Can I make Traditional IRA contributions?

Yes. If you have earned income, you can now make a Traditional IRA contribution starting in 2020 tax year. This also includes spousal contributions.

The new law will give you additional time to do Roth IRA conversions without having to worry about the impact of RMDs. However, once RMDs begin, those RMDs cannot be converted to a Roth IRA. Those over 70 ½ in 2019 won’t be able to save in an IRA for 2019.

Am I allowed to make a charitable donation from my IRA now that the RMD age is 72 if I’m 70½ – 71?

Yes. Currently, people who are 70 ½ or older can give money from a Traditional IRA to one or more charities and exclude the amount donated from their taxable income. Nothing in the law changes that.

What should I do now?

  1. It’s very important to review your beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts to ensure they align with the new rules and your wishes. If you have a retirement account with Member Benefits, log in to your account at yourMONEY or give us a call at 1-800-279-4030.
  2. If you have a trust, you should review the trust’s language to see if it still aligns with your intended goals.
  3. Review your tax situation and how the new rules will impact the true amount of wealth you are passing to your children.

There may be several strategies to consider depending on your circumstances, so it pays to be proactive. Consult your personal advisor or tax attorney for assistance.

403(b) and IRA contribution limits for 2020

IRA contribution limits remain the same, but 403(b) contribution limits have increased this year. Take advantage of these new limits to increase your retirement savings.

Visit for more information or call us at 1-800-279-4030 if you have questions.

Time to review 403(b) and IRA contribution limits

The contribution limit for the 403(b) increased from $19,000 to $19,500 in 2020. The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $6,000. If you’re not maximizing your contributions, you may wish to re-evaluate the amount you’re putting toward retirement. Not only do you lower your taxable income, you ensure that you’re doing everything you can to reach your retirement goals.

Elective 403(b) Contribution Limits

Calendar yearSalary Reduction Contribution Limit15 Years of Service Catch-UpAge 50 and Over Catch-UpPossible maximum

For your 403(b) account, some employers only allow changes at the start of the school year and then again in January. Others allow more frequent changes. Both you and your employer will need to sign a salary reduction agreement.

Some districts may allow Roth 403(b) contributions. Your Roth contributions and your pre-tax contributions combined must not exceed the $19,500 limit.

IRA (Roth and Traditional) Contribution Limits

Calendar yearUnder age 50Age 50 or older

You may contribute to both a Roth and Traditional IRA, but your combined contributions must not exceed the annual limits.

If you make automatic IRA contributions using SmartPlan or through payroll deduction (available in districts offering Trust Advantage™), your contributions do not adjust automatically to meet the new limits. To make adjustments, call 1-800-279-4030 or print out an IRA Contribution Form.

If maxing out contributions is not realistic for you right now, remember: With compound interest, even a small amount invested today can grow to a large sum by retirement.

NOTE: Because the maximum Roth IRA contribution may be reduced depending on MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income), some high-income taxpayers may not be able to make Roth IRA cotnributions; however, they could make Traditional IRA contributions.

Ready to rollover to a WEA Member Benefits IRA?

Managing your investment accounts is easier when you consolidate. Consider rolling over into our IRA program where you’ll pay ONE low administrative fee up to an annual fee cap.**

It’s even easier to save by making automatic contributions from your savings or checking if you’re still working.

Here’s a few reasons to rollover your IRA to us:

It’s open to family members. Your family, including your spouse or domestic partner, children and their spouses, parents, parents-in-law—and in some cases, your grandchildren—may also be eligible to participate in our IRA program.1

Low fees save money. Fees charged by some plans can take a big bite out of your earnings. The number one factor in determining your rate of return—after asset allocation—is cost. To make the most of your invested dollar you will want to minimize the fees you pay.

Our IRA has just one low annual administrative fee (0.45%) that is capped annually at $600 for WEAC members $750 for non-members. No other administrative fees apply; however, mutual funds include investment management and redemption fees.

Rollover with ease. We can help you complete your transfer or rollover in a few easy steps. It only takes about 5 minutes with the help of one of our technical assistants.

Our enrollment experts will help you:

For more information, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030, Extension 8568, or start the process online at

*Be sure to consider all your available options and the applicable fees and features of each option before moving your retirement assets.
**A minimum annual fee of $25 will apply to accounts that have no annual contributions. Mutual fund management and redemption fees may apply.
1To be eligible for this program, you must meet the IRS eligibility requirements for contributing to an IRA. Restrictions may apply. Wisconsin residency required.

Year-end deadlines for your retirement accounts

Important dates for your calendar

403(b) and IRA exchanges/transfers/rollovers

Exchanges, transfers, and rollovers require significant processing time. Your completed paperwork (including approved third-party administrator transaction authorization, if applicable) will be submitted to the payer company by the end of December if we receive it by December 6, 2019. This includes requests for IRA conversions. Call us if you have any questions. We’re happy to help you through the process.

Postdated checks

We are unable to accept IRA contribution checks written and received this tax year (2019) for next tax year (2020). Postdated checks will be returned.

Year-end withdrawal deadlines

If you would like to take a lump sum withdrawal from your 403(b) or IRA accounts before the end of 2019, your completed request (including third-party administration transaction authorization, if applicable) must be received by us on or before December 13, 2019. Requests received after this date may not be processed before year-end.

Watch your contribution limits…year-end is closing in

Employee contribution limits for 403(b) accounts are $19,000 for 2019; however, employees age 50 and older can contribute an additional $6,000 for a total of $25,000 per year. Give us a call if you need assistance. Learn more about contribution limits.

Time to review your retirement account

Have you reviewed your retirement account this year? You may want to:

Visit yourMONEY online to review your account or call us at 1-800-279-4030.

Decisions, decisions on distributions

Your required minimum distribution (RMD) is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your account each year, but you can choose to withdraw more. You generally have to start taking withdrawals from your IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and your retirement plan account at age 72 (age 70½ if reached prior to January 1, 2020) or the calendar year you retire from an employer through which you contributed. Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

If you’re not sure what to do with your RMD by December 31, we have a few ideas for you.


Did you know you can choose to give up to $100,000 to a qualified charity from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) without counting it as taxable income when you are over 70 ½ years old? This type of gift is called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). It’s not only a powerful incentive for charitable giving, it also has tax benefits. QCDs count as IRA distributions, so they can be used to satisfy all or some of your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the calendar year.

Member Benefits requires you to complete a specific form if you wish to take advantage of this IRA option. Consider giving a donation to WEA Member Benefits Foundation or one or more of your favorite charities.


If you don’t need the funds for necessities, consider opening a Personal Investment Account with Member Benefits. It’s a way to invest your money outside of a retirement account without using a cash account such as savings, checking, or certificates of deposit. You can choose from individual, joint, UTMA, or trust accounts.

Ask us about the tax benefits of this type of account. For more information, visit the Personal Investment Account page.


The Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) provides an avenue for a grandparent, parent, aunt, and/or uncle to make monetary gifts to a minor. Or consider making a contribution to a 529 college savings plan (in Wisconsin, visit Edvest).


If you have a Roth 403(b), you can roll the money into a Roth IRA, which has no RMDs for the original owner. You can also convert your Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or pre-tax 403(b), but you will owe tax on the conversion.

Give us a call at 1-800-279-4030 if you have questions. As with most IRS provisions, we encourage you to work closely with your tax advisor to determine what would work best for your specific situation.

Working at a new district this year? Don’t forget your 403(b)

That’s right. Your 403(b) is an employer-sponsored plan, so when you leave a district, any contributions to that account stop. To continue funding your retirement savings, you need to set up a new retirement account with your new district.

Member Benefits is an approved vendor in 98% of the school districts in Wisconsin, so chances are you can continue saving for retirement with our nationally recognized 403(b). Here’s what you need to do.

Call us

We’ll help you set up your new account in about 10 minutes.

Fill out an SRA

Fill out a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and submit it to your new district’s benefits manager or payroll coordinator, authorizing them to withhold and forward money from your paycheck to your 403(b). We can provide you with the SRA or you can get it from your district’s business office.

Update your account

While you’re setting up your new account, take the opportunity to:

Moving to a new district requires you to open a new 403(b) account in order to contribute to your retirement savings. Your 403(b) account with a previous district is still yours and will remain in that district’s plan until you either move it or need it for retirement.

Decide what you want to do about your old account

Keep in mind you may have the option to transfer the money from your old plan to your new one. The process is pretty easy. Our staff can explain your options and help you decide whether or not it makes sense to transfer the money.

>>Call 1-800-279-4030

P.S. Consolidating your retirement accounts makes them easier to manage and may save you money. If you want to rollover a 401(k) or other retirement account(s) to a WEA Member Benefits IRA*, we can help with that, too!


*The Trustee Custodian for the WEA Member Benefits IRA accounts is Newport Trust Company. To be eligible for this program, you must meet the IRS eligibility requirements for contributing to an IRA. Restrictions may apply. Wisconsin residency required. 

Announcing the 2020 Prudential Guaranteed Investment credited rate of return

Through a long-time partnership with Prudential, Member Benefits has been able to offer participants in our 403(b) and IRA program a guaranteed investment option designed for the conservative investor that provides an attractive rate of return.

The Prudential Guaranteed Investment account is a long-term savings vehicle with goals and strategies fit for long-term investing. It assumes the role of a fixed-income or bond investment in your asset allocation mix and therefore may be a good choice for those looking for a more conservative approach.

Learn more about the Prudential Guaranteed Investment.


*Interest is compounded daily to produce a yield net of Prudential’s administrative fee of 0.60%. PRIAC is compensated in connection with this product by deducting an amount for investment expenses and risk from the investment experience of certain assets held in PRIAC’s general account. For more information, go to